the black breath blows
When death’s shadow grows
And all lights pass
Come athelas, come athelas
Life to the dying
In the king’s hand lying...
Legolas’ body was so cold to the touch, it was
it not for the faint falling and rising of his chest ,Aragorn would
thought him already dead.
The Dùnadan had already cleansed the elf’s
wound of whatever
foul substances the Witch King had been giving him, but Legolas seemed
to be falling deeper and deeper into the shadow.
Aragorn knew what the elf needed; he only hoped that
he could do
it. Elrond had told him that he could, that he had the strength
within him to drive back the shadow... but Aragorn was still
afraid. Afraid that he would fail when it was most important for
him to not.
With trembling fingers he poured some of the boiling
water he had used
to clean the prince’s wound into a small dish. Holding the
athelas leaves he had gathered in the palm of his hand, Aragorn
breathed on the handful before crushing them and dropping them onto the
water. The clean, beautifully wholesome scent that reminded him
of Rivendell and Elrond immediately filled the air. The steam
wafted around them and seemed to hang in the air, moistening every
breath that they took with its healing fragrance. He found
himself relaxing as the herb cleansed the pall that surrounded them.
After a few moments he was encouraged to see that a
faint pink tint had
returned to the elf’s dangerously grey skin. Aragorn took hold of
the prince’s hand. Still cold, but not as cold. Gently he
rubbed Legolas' hand with his own, willing the heat of life to return.
“Legolas,” he called quietly, with more authority
than he knew he
had. “Legolas Greenleaf, come back. Leave the shadow.
Return to the light. Come back to me, to light, to life...” He
spoke in elvish and his words lingered on the air. “Legolas...”
He closed his eyes and quieted his fears hoping that the athelas would
work, unable to watch if he had failed.
The prince stirred. The slim hand that rested
in Aragorn’s began
to warm. The ranger reacted to the small change in the elf, leaning
near, searching the prince’s face for signs of consciousness.
Legolas breathed in deeply and, very slowly, opened his eyes.
were blurry and clouded with pain and confusion but, for the first time
in days, Aragorn could see his friend in their silver-blue depths and
smiled in relief at the recognition in Legolas’ eyes.
The elf blinked slowly. “Wh-what happened?” he
faintly. “I feel as if I have lived a nightmare somehow... yet I
“You have had a very bad dream my friend, but it’s
over now. It’s
all over,” Aragorn soothed gently, lightly touching his friend’s
tangled hair. There would be plenty of time for Legolas to
remember and deal with what had happened later. For now, he was just
glad that the elf was recalled from the shadow.
Legolas was not content with his answer, but felt
too weak to protest.
“We will talk about it later,” Aragorn warded off
questions. “Rest now. Rest.” The sound of the grey
tongue was so soothing to the elf. He couldn’t remember the last time
he had heard it and he allowed the ranger’s words to comfort him.
There was a nagging unease in the back of his mind as though something
had gone terribly wrong and he needed to be worried about it, but he
Aragorn noted the tension in his friend and moved
from his kneeling
position, seating himself. Gently he pulled
Legolas into his lap and held the prince in his arms, cradling the
elf’s head against his chest. Fear from almost losing his friend
caused his breathing to hitch in his throat. “Relax, Legolas, you
are safe now.”
Legolas allowed himself to be held, letting go of
the nagging fear that
he couldn’t quite shake. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, although he didn’t
know why he was apologizing.
“No, no it’s all right. Don’t be. Everything
will be fine.”
The sweet clean scent of the athelas wound about the two of them,
filling the small cave with a sense of peace and serenity as the rain
gently continued to fall outside, its patter a calm resounding in the
hollow. Within moments the elf was sleeping soundly, his chest
rising and falling normally and his open eyes staring vacantly,
contented in rest. Aragorn bent down and gently kissed the top of
the elf’s fair head. It had been so close, too close.
The ranger closed his eyes as the alternatives
flashed through his
mind. A waft of athelas blew past him and he banished the dark
thoughts from his consciousness. Whatever might have been,
wasn’t. Legolas stirred lightly in his sleep and Aragorn looked
down at the elf and nodded. Yes, they would be all right.
The night was rent with a piercing cry and Aragorn
The cave was dark and the rain had finally stopped falling. He
heard the cry again and recognized it for what it was, elvish.
“Legolas!” the ranger moved quickly to the dying
fire and blew into the
still warm embers, igniting the small flicker. By the light of
the fire he found the elf pressed up against the far wall, his eyes
squeezed tightly closed and pain etched on every line of his face.
“No. No more! Stop please!” the elf was crying
rapidly in the grey tongue, caught in the midst of a nightmare.
Aragorn scooted near the prince and gently gripped
talking softly to the elf, trying to calm the terrors he was caught in.
“Legolas, it is I, Estel. Wake up. You are
The elf shook his head, trying to pull away. “No, I
killed him, he is
dead.” The words came out in a sob.
“Legolas, open your eyes, I live.” The human shook
the elf with more
force than he had meant to and the prince cried out, and gripped his
wounded shoulder tightly, his eyes flying open to lock onto the silver
ones staring at him.
“I slit your throat,” Legolas’ voice trembled, not
yet entirely free of
the terror of the dream or conscious of the reality of his
“No, you didn’t, you couldn’t.” Aragorn gently
hand away from his shoulder and checked the bandage to make sure he
hadn’t accidentally reopened the wound. “You saved me. You didn’t
obey. I am alive.”
“I was going to kill you. I betrayed you
to Mordor and I...”
“Stop!” Aragorn shushed the elf gently, touching the
prince’s split lip
with his fingers and silencing the self-condemning tirade. “You
were not acting as yourself, you were under the Nazgûl’s control.
But he did not own you completely.”
Legolas was staring at the ranger, listening, trying
to make himself
believe the words. “I remember everything, Estel. I remember what
he made me do. I remember holding the knife to your throat. I remember
The utter look of sorrow on the elf’s face touched
Aragorn’s heart and
he pulled the prince into his arms and held him while he spoke softly,
whispering in the elf’s ear, “I half hoped you wouldn’t remember
anything, my friend. I’m sorry.”
Legolas pulled back and stared at the ranger, “Where
Aragorn shook his head and looked back out into the
forest, “Gone, I
think. I am not sure he survived... although I fear he did.”
“I set his clothes on fire and he ran off into the
woods.” The human
shuddered at the memory of the wraith’s screams as they had echoed
through the woods.
Aragorn was jerked back to the present when Legolas
lunged forward and
grabbed his arm, demanding his attention. “There was a woman and
a child. Did you find them, are they safe?”
With a smile the man answered, “Maraen and
Estelle? Yes we found
them.” He covered the elf’s shaking hands with his own. “They are safe
and doing well, thanks to you and my father. They are the reason
knew where to come looking for you. Maraen didn’t remember
anything when we found her, but her memory slowly returned and father
was sure he would be able to heal her completely with the athelas. I
didn’t wait to find out if it worked; I had to come looking for you.”
Legolas relaxed slightly and looked to the floor of
the cave, speaking
softly, “They are the only reason I consented to staying with the
Nazgûl. He wanted to kill them and I traded my life for
their own. Perhaps it was not the right choice...but I could think of
no other. I hoped they would make it to your home safely.”
`“They did and they have you to thank for it.”
“You don’t know what I did.” Legolas stared into the
silver eyes, a
haunted shadow darkening his own before he dropped his gaze. “I
couldn’t stop myself from obeying him.”
Aragorn reached out and placed his hand behind the
elf’s head, pulling
his friend closer, forcing the prince to focus on him. “I don’t need
to. I know who you are. I know what lives inside you, and
it is not darkness, it is light. We have been here before, my
friend. You know that your heart is good. Darkness can
never truly own light.”
Legolas nodded slightly in agreement and the ranger
smiled back at him,
changing the subject quickly, “Now come over here by the light and let
me take a good look at that cut on your shoulder. If you are
feeling well enough, we’ll start back for home today.”
The elf shifted nearer the fire, watching his friend
tell me something.”
Aragorn was preoccupied with Legolas’ wound.
“Sure, anything,” he
muttered absently as he lathered the cut with crushed athelas leaves.
“What happened at the falls?”
The ranger stopped what he was doing and looked up
at the elf in
confusion. “What falls?”
Legolas rolled his eyes and smiled lightly, “Did you
hit your head on
the way down? Have you forgotten that you fell from the heights
that day we went hunting?” It was, in fact, indelibly etched into the
“Oh!” Aragorn caught on to his friend's train of
thought, “Yes, I guess
I had forgotten, its been over a month now since I fell.” He rolled his
shoulder testing it; it barely even ached now from the old wound.
He laughed at his forgetfulness. “I was so worried about you I forgot
that you haven’t seen me since then.” The ranger tied off the
bandage and stopped talking as he noted the look of shock and pain on
the elf’s face.
“Legolas what is it?” Aragorn leaned forward
and touched the
The elf jumped slightly and stared at the ranger.
“I’m sorry, did you
say a month?”
With a slight nod, Aragorn answered. He
watched his friend
carefully, letting the silence grow between them before he spoke
again. “Did you not know how long you had been in the captivity
of the Nazgûl?”
“No.” Legolas whispered, looking away to the back of
the cave to hide
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize...”
“Everything was dark. There was no day or
night. There was
only pain and darkness. I knew when I slept and when I woke, but
I had no knowledge of time at all. It was as though I was neither
here nor absent from this life, but caught somewhere in between in
shadow.” He shuddered as the recollection caught him up once
more. “It seemed an eternity, but I had no idea it was so long.”
Aragorn didn’t know how to respond. He shifted
closer and laid
his arm across the elf’s shoulders. “I’m sorry I didn’t come to
find you sooner. I never imagined that you weren’t simply home with
your father. If I had known...”
“My father!” Legolas turned huge eyes on the
ranger. “I never
showed up! He will know some ill has befallen me!”
“Yes, he does. He sent Raniean and Trelan to
find out what had
happened.” Aragorn gazed into the fire, a small smile tugging at
his lips. “I imagine they are pretty upset right about now. I
snuck out of the house in the middle of the night and left them
behind. No one will ever find us here, I made sure of it.
And if I know Elladan and Elrohir, they are probably out hunting us
Legolas was not consoled by the humor, “It will tear
heart. I was not there for the last yèn. He probably
thinks that I disobeyed his request - again.”
“Legolas, you didn’t.” Aragorn focused his
attention back on the
elf. “You were going home. You even left without knowing if I were
alive or not – which is how I would have had it. When he hears
what happened he will understand.”
The elf looked at the ranger incredulously.
“Obviously you do not know
my father very well. He will be relieved that I did not disobey
and then infuriated that I was taken captive, and by a Nazgûl no
Aragorn laughed, shaking his head. “I’m sorry.
funny. I was just thinking that it’s a very good thing that your
father never had any more sons and none the likes of me or my brothers.
We would have brought his head down to the grave!”
Legolas started laughing, pushing the human away
from him. “I can't
believe you said that! But you are probably very correct.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll go back with the three of you and
we’ll explain it
together. It’ll work out just fine, you’ll see.” He shook
his head slowly, as he moved to the opposite side of the fire and began
to collect their things, packing them into his sack as he spoke.
“And speaking of them, we best be heading back if you are able.
They were worried sick about you. Sounds like the rain has
stopped, so we should be able to travel with no problem.”
“I am able to travel,” Legolas affirmed. “Let us go.”
Aragorn turned and stared hard at the elf, “If you
feel the least bit
sick or need to rest, you had best tell me. If you let that elven
pride get in the way, I will never let you forget it.
Understood? We can stay here a bit longer if you like.”
The elf stared at the ranger with a look of disdain,
“Are you quite
through mothering me?”
“Not until father says you are well, no!” The ranger
set his pack down
and leaned forward, returning the hard stare.
They locked eyes for a few moments, neither backing
had the patience to wear the elf down in this instance and Legolas
dropped his gaze with a rueful smile, “You are more like your father
than you realize.”
“Thank you.” Aragorn smiled brilliantly at the elf,
around the fire and seating himself back near his friend. “Now
are you ready?”
“Under one condition.” Legolas glanced at him
out of the corner
of his eyes.
“All right.” Aragorn turned serious and stared
openly back at the
elf. His intensity caused the prince to start laughing and
Legolas pushed the ranger over with a gentle shove.
“You must tell me what happened to you at the falls!”
Aragorn broke out laughing as he forced his hands
underneath him and
moved to the entrance of the cave, “That, I can do!”
“So you are telling me that the whole time we were
calling for you, you
were behind the falls?”
Legolas picked his way carefully around the
roots of a large tree, his footing not as sure as he would have liked
it to be as he trailed the ranger.
“Yes. You cannot believe how relieved I was to
discover that I
was in a cave just inside the falls.” Aragorn slowed his pace and
glanced behind him, discreetly watching the elf navigate the rough
terrain. “I have never been more afraid than when I realized I
was trapped. What an awful feeling.”
“Yes.” Legolas’ voice lowered as he thought. “I can
know exactly how you felt.”
Aragorn turned and met the silver blue eyes of his
friend, “You were
conscious then, inside yourself the whole time?”
“Yes.” The prince swallowed hard. “I just
could not keep myself
from obeying. I had no control over my body. It was like being
locked inside a prison and I couldn’t get out.”
“Well, then I guess we both probably have
difficulties with tight
spaces.” Aragorn smiled a lopsided grin at the prince,
intentionally trying to be light and draw his friend back out of the
pain Legolas had begun retreating into again. It worked, for the
moment at least.
“Indeed we do,” the elf laughed, “At least you were
His words were silenced as Aragorn held up his hand
and stopped moving,
kneeling quietly behind the cover of the brush that littered the forest
floor. Legolas crouched down next to him.
“What is it?”
“Someone approaches.” The ranger barely spoke,
glancing slowly around
the wooded area. “Can you not hear them?”
The elf nodded as the muted sounds of footsteps
carried softly to
him. He laid his hand on the ranger’s back and when the man
turned to look at him, the elf extended his hand palm up requesting a
weapon, as his own had been taken from him by the wraith.
Aragorn slipped a knife from his boot and passed the
dagger to the elf.
The approaching foot falls had stopped and they both
tensed in the
unnatural silence. Quiet, hushed conversation drifted to Legolas
on the slight breeze and he touched his ear quickly before pointing in
the direction that it came from.
The ranger nodded and motioned for the elf to stay
while he moved
around to scout out their new guests. The elf pulled the ranger
close and whispered softly in his ear, “I will go around the other
“No, you stay here,” Aragorn whispered back, his
the blonde strands of hair. “You are not fully well yet.”
“I am fine.” Legolas leaned back and stared hard
into the dark silver
eyes to emphasize his words.
Aragorn grabbed him and pulled him back in
close,.“You are not. Now do
as I say.” Without waiting for the elf to respond, he twisted on his
bootheels and crept off to the right to search out the unseen
Stealthily the ranger passed the small group
up. He could tell
from the sounds that there was more than one person on the path.
Gaining a good position behind the company, he trailed them back
towards Legolas. As he closed the gap between himself and the
persons in front of him, he recognized the small group and couldn’t
the smile that broke out on his face.
Quietly slinging his bow back over his shoulder he
unsheathed his sword
and stepped silently up behind the elf that brought up the last
position, Trelan. Moving quickly he grabbed the elf around the
waist and jerked the fair being back against him, bringing his sword up
under the small elf’s chin, tipping Trelan’s head back till it rested
against Aragorn’s shoulder.
The company had ceased immediately, turning at the
slight sounds of the
scuffle. Trelan was barely breathing as he opened his eyes and
glanced out of the corner of them at Aragorn.
The ranger was smiling with open delight at the fear
on the elf’s face.
“Missed you Trelan. How have you been?” He whispered fiercely at
the shaken warrior.
“Oh for the love of the Valar, Strider!” The elf
sagged back against the
ranger with relief and annoyance. “Let me go!”
“Did I scare you?” The human asked, egged on
by the deep laughter
of Raniean. “I told you I’d pay you back for that Trellep joke you
tried to play on me.”
Trelan sighed in disgust and pushed his elbows
against the human,
forcing the man to release his hold and drop his weapon so as not to
harm the elf.
“He got you good, Trelan.” Raniean laughed as the
small warrior made his
way back to his friend’s side, trying to regain his dignity. “You
should have seen the look on your face.”
The human smiled brilliantly at the two elves that
Elladan just shook his head. “That was very well
done. I didn’t even
hear you come up on us.”
Elrohir looked about them into the woods. “Estel,
did you find the
“Yes, he did.” A voice behind the company
turned the attention
away from the ranger as Legolas stepped onto the path. He smiled
at the small grouping as Trelan and Raniean walked quickly to his side,
quietly asking him questions.
He gently reassured his friends and joined the
would be enough questions to be answered and he did not wish to relive
the events of the recent past just yet.
Elladan glanced between the prince and his human
were quite a dirty, bedraggled sight, but they both seemed to be in
pretty good health. “You are both walking under your own power
and neither of you seems over-grievously injured. How did you
pull that off, Estel?”
The human rolled his eyes and smirked back at his
older brother. “As if
that’s a first?”
“It is,”the twin replied sarcastically.
“No, Estel, it is,” Elrohir cut off the human’s
argument, agreeing with
his twin. “I think father will be very impressed.”
“That remains to be seen.” Legolas replied seriously.
Aragorn walked back to the prince and stared up into
the blue eyes. “My
father will be very impressed.” He held the elf’s gaze for a long
The small company of warriors shared a questioning
something occurred that could not be readily seen and, from what the
elves knew, it couldn’t have been good. But the fact still
remained that the two friends were by all outward appearances safe and
well and so the warriors surrounded them without further question and
walked them back to the city built into the rift. They would know
the full story soon enough.